Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

March 12, 2008

Brady Knepp
Brady Knepp
He was chosen for the armor and his reason for wearing it: Brady Knepp represents people who aren't ashamed of who they are.

Knepp, a Ball State University freshman, is featured in Michael Franzini's "100 Young Americans,"  a book capturing today's youth culture through photography.

Franzini spent five months traveling the U.S. to portray an accurate picture of youth culture. He found a diverse group of 100 teenagers willing to share their distinct images and stories. Among them, one of New York City's most wanted graffiti artists, a wounded soldier, a gamer, a bull rider, a MySpace celebrity, a presidential hopeful and Knepp — a teenager who can construct samurai armor out of cardboard.

Discovered through MySpace, Knepp, a native of Lapel, Ind., majoring in creative writing and minoring in telecommunications, is pictured standing proudly in his cardboard armor, staff in hand.

"It all started at church camp one year," he said. "We were playing paintball, and I'd just seen the movie 'The Last Samurai.' I thought it would be funny to run across the paintball field and re-enact the last battle."

Knepp's interest in historical Japan has evolved from that moment, advancing his armor building technique through practice and research, and has led him to write his own historical fiction. One of his works, "Freeing God," tells the story of a former crusader and his son as they escape hypocrisy and grow spiritually.

He hopes to use his connections through "100 Young Americans" to eventually publish "Freeing God."

Each photograph in "100 Young Americans" is accompanied by a short essay about the teen's life.

"They asked me about my social life in high school, my friends and how other people viewed my friends and me," Knepp said. "I'd describe us as 'weird in a good way.' We're just different. We didn't really try too hard to be normal or to fit in."

Knepp's English instructor, Larry Riley, shared the book with his class.

"The mixture of the 100 is quite interesting," Riley said. "The class enjoyed seeing the book and found it interesting how Brady was found to become a subject in the volume, via his own online involvement in MySpace."

Knepp sees the book as an opportunity to represent his generation.

"Many of us show we're not doomed," he said. "For those of us with more ambitious plans, it represents a chance to achieve our dreams."

Note to editors: For more information, contact Knepp at

By Jennifer Strempka